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Whose personal is more political? Experience in contemporary feminist politics

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alison PhippsORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by SAGE Publications Ltd, 2016.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016. Whose personal is more political? This article explores the role of experience in contemporary feminist politics, arguing that it operates as a form of capital within abstracted and decontextualised debates which entrench existing power relations. In a neoliberal context in which the personal and emotional is commodified, powerful groups mobilise traumatic narratives to gain political advantage. Through case study analysis this article shows how privileged feminists, speaking for others and sometimes for themselves, use experience to generate emotion and justify particular agendas, silencing critics who are often from more marginalised social positions. The use of the experiential as capital both reflects and perpetuates the neoliberal invisibilisation of structural dynamics: it situates all experiences as equal, and in the process fortifies existing inequalities. This competitive discursive field is polarising, and creates selective empathies through which we tend to discredit others’ realities instead of engaging with their politics. However, I am not arguing for a renunciation of the politics of experience: instead, I ask that we resist its commodification and respect varied narratives while situating them in a structural frame.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Phipps A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Feminist Theory

Year: 2016

Volume: 17

Issue: 3

Pages: 303-321

Print publication date: 01/12/2016

Online publication date: 13/08/2016

Acceptance date: 02/04/2016

Date deposited: 17/01/2022

ISSN (print): 1464-7001

ISSN (electronic): 1741-2773

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/1464700116663831


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